I recently went on a camping trip for the weekend to Grizedale Forest in the Lake District. The main reason for the trip was because my friends and I were attending Picnic Cinema and as it was a little bit out of our way we decided to just make a weekend of it.
Picnic Cinema is an initiative run by the Eden Arts Council and part funded by the National Lottery. It aims to raise money to invest in local projects for the rural community and it does this by arranging for special and unique locations around Cumbria to hold outdoor screenings of classic movies in their grounds during July, August and September.
As well as watching a classic movie it also encourages people to bring food and drinks and make a night of it. To make it a bit more special there is a bar serving drinks and food and they have live music before the movie starts.
This year there were four different locations used for the screenings.
• Greystoke Castle: The Greystoke Castle Estate lies five miles west of Penrith and was the location for the screening of the Marilyn Monroe film Some Like it Hot.
• Brockhole: The Brockhole Visitors Centre on the banks of Lake Windermere was the location for the screening of the musicals Greece and Mama Mia.
• Acorn Bank Gardens: Here the film was to be Moulin Rouge.
• Brantwood: The former home of John Ruskin was the location for a screening of Swallows and Amazons.
• Hutton in the Forest: The grand country estate was showing Tosca from the Royal Opera House.
• Sleddale Hall: The actual location used in Withnail and I was the location for a showing of the cult classic.
• Grizedale Forest: The location where I went was showing two films on different dates, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Blair Witch Project.
We chose to go to the Grizedale screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind as we thought the location was one of the more unusual and the film itself appealed more to our tastes. Personally I would have preferred to have went and seen The Blair Witch as I had thought that it would have been quite an experience to see it in the middle of a forest. Unfortunately the dates for that didn’t work out and although I wasn’t overly excited about the movie I was more going for the experience than anything else.
According to our tickets the location was going to be open from 6 with the band playing from 7.15 and the movie starting at dusk.
We set off from our campsite early by car (you will need to drive if you visit next year as the location is out of the way) and arrived at the location of the screening for about 5:45. Apparently the location had changed from its original one the day previously I have no idea why but the new location was well signposted on the road and we had no trouble finding it.
We parked up and made our way to the ticket booth to present our tickets. They checked our tickets and directed us up the road to the screening area. On the way we were met by a couple of people dressed in American army outfits who ‘scanned’ us to make sure that we weren’t possessed by aliens. It was a little cheesy especially their American accents but it was all part of the fun of the night. The whole night had a mashed potato theme which meant absolutely nothing to me until I seen the film but there were a few people who got into the swing of it with some alien masks and some boppers on their heads.
The walk to the screening location took about 10 minutes from where we were parked and it was pretty sedate with no rough terrain. The location was a little less dramatic than I had envisioned in my head and was just a clearing next to the woods and not in it. There were some logs for people to sit on who hadn’t brought their own seats, an area set up for the band and a small bar area selling wine and beers as well as some cakes and snacks. We didn’t buy any drinks because we had brought our own but they were priced at £2 a glass which is really reasonable for events like this. There were also three portaloos two for women and one for men and it doesn’t have anything to do with the film but they were the cleanest portaloos I have ever seen in my life before!
We had brought folding chairs and our own picnic so we found a space in the clearing and set everything up. The clearing wasn’t huge but the screenings are all ticketed so they had calculated how much space would be needed and it was pretty much the perfect size.
For an hour or so we just sat around chatting and enjoying the atmosphere along with all the other people at the screening. Everyone was there for a good time and everyone was mingling and chatting with the other people in their vicinity and it was a really nice ambiance.
The band started playing about an hour before the movie and to be completely honest this confused me a little. Jude Connely was the featured singer along with a couple of local musicians helping him out and although he was really good the music wasn’t really what I was expecting. I just thought that the music would fit the theme of the film and it really didn’t but it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so just sitting in the woods with food and drink listening to a folksy musician.
When it started to get dark the movie started and was shown on a large projector screen. We had worried beforehand that the screen for the film would be tiny but it was a decent size and we had no problem seeing it clearly from near the back. The sound system was also excellent and audio was distributed all over the clearing.
Turns out I hadn’t actually seen the film even though before getting there I was convinced that I had and I really enjoyed it.
When the movie ended it was time to pack up and make our way back to the car. This is where a torch came in handy as of course it is in the forest and there were no lights outside of the screening area so it was absolutely pitch black. When we got back to the car we had to wait a while before we could leave as everyone had had to park on the grass verge behind the car in front and as it was a single track road it took quite some time to get out.
The only thing that you would need to worry about would be the cold. Although it was early September and had been a gorgeous day as soon as the sun went down it was freezing cold to the point where I couldn’t feel my fingers and my breath was coming out as steam. I would really recommend that you take some gloves and a blanket just in case the weather is cold.
The other thing is the terrain. It wasn’t difficult and people who have trouble walking should be fine as long as they take it slowly. The only other thing you need to worry about it making sure that you take a torch as it really came in handy for us getting back to the car and also manoeuvring our way to the toilets during the film.
Tickets for the screening were £11 for adults and £6 for children. You can buy your tickets on the night but you then take the risk that you arrive and it has sold out so I would recommend that you buy in advance especially for the more popular locations and films as the screenings can only hold so many people and once it is at capacity they won’t let anyone else in. We bought our tickets from the official website which is www/picniccinema.co.uk and just printed them off at home and presented them on the night. There was a charge for using my credit card buying them online. You can also buy them direct from the venues holding the screenings in advance and also by post if you have enough time.